Art Exhibition: Isabella Mellado’s “Realismo Mágico”

Isabella Mellado’s “Realismo Mágico” opened on January 19, 2023, at Walter Otero Art Gallery in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The exhibition will be on view until February 25. Here are excerpts from IN Puerto Rico Magazine.

[. . .] Puerto Rican artist Isabella Mellado presents, at the Walter Otero Art Gallery, an exhibition of her works from 2017 to the present, entitled “Realismo Mágico” [Magical Realism]. The paintings [. . .] address themes related to the artist’s belonging to the queer community, the gender binary, and the sense of duality inherent in living in the diaspora. The exhibition will be on view until February 25 from Tuesday to Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Saturdays by appointment.

Through her paintings, Mellado studies her identity and how she has lived it in different contexts, taking into account that, for most, life is a process of masking and acting in order to feel that we belong. For this reason, the artist affirms that her artistic practice is best described by the phrase “saltar el charco.” [Translator’s note: Although this phrase literally means “jumping over the puddle,” and is usually employed to refer to migration or travel from Puerto Rico to the U.S., the artist expands on this notion using the metaphor in other ways.]

Her works center queer narrative, framing it with symbolism taken from mythology, the Tarot, and astrology. Likewise, her works are usually contextualized in Puerto Rico.

She states, “As I am part of the diaspora, my paintings have always tried to take “el charco” [the puddle] into account; that is, the feeling of not fully belonging to a local Puerto Rican or a diaspora community. Furthermore, [. . .] “el charco” also describes what it means to be queer, and [to represent] the contrast between moving through conservative spaces and LGBTQ+ safe environments.”

In the exhibition you will be able to appreciate paintings that illustrate figures intentionally posed in a shallow space. Reverently painted, the figures are larger than the viewers, looking directly at them. She uses props such as papier-mâché masks and modified found objects, which then become part of a staged photograph with one or more models. The resulting images are then combined into a composition and used to create the painting. Thus, the result of the meticulous photographic process carried out by Mellado constitute paintings of a theatrical style and composition.

Mellado is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the Chicago Art Institute, the most prestigious painting institute in the United States. She will soon exhibit her work at the Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago.

Translation by Ivette Romero. For original article (in Spanish), see

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